Monday, December 20, 2010

What is Placemaking?

We have a grant to do some "Placemaking" - but what is this concept and how do we go about achieving it?
Think of a physical place you like to be and think of social situations which warm you and make you feel good, combine the two and you have placemaking in action. That's an abbreviated and very simplistic definition. Here are some quotes to expand the idea

"Placemaking , the creation of liveable, people friendly, walkable, resilient and beautiful places, revitalises and renews existing communities, creates social sustainability."

“Placemaking is the process of creating spaces that are vibrant and pleasurable by engaging the senses, the intellect and memory.”

P”"Place making is not about making ‘great places’ – it is about making great places – for people. “

“Place making is the process of creating ‘places’ that provide economic, intellectual, cultural, emotional and sensory nourishment for the people who will use them - builds relationships between people, and between people and their places.”

"A place is attractive to people because it has a unique identity that is authentic to the location – “spirit of place”, “soliphilia”. This makes the place meaningful to people because they can connect to it in a personal and often emotional way. When the identity of a place changes, e.g. a main street deteriorates,  people’s perception of that place will change too. (Solistalgia)

Perception of the character of a place is key to their participation in the life of that place i.e. if it feels dangerous they won’t come or if it is dominated by one group it may appear that others are not welcome. For these reasons an essential aspect of any place making process is the involvement with the community who uses or wants to use a place. It is their knowledge and aspirations that should guide the creation of place – after all they are the people who are going to use them. "

"1. reveal and respond to the character of the place
2. involve people in the planning and activation of the place
3. respond to people’s emotional needs and aspirations
4. create ‘attractive’ places for people by providing them with multiple experiences
5. create pleasurable experiences that evoke sensory and emotional delight."

Our Place at 31A Church Street is a public place on privately owned land. It already has many of the characteristics - it involves people socially and emotionally, is attractive, provides multiple experiences, it has a history, invokes memory and engages intellect. Our task is to show more people in the local community how this is open to them too. 

This piece of land was once part of the lush and dense woodland and rainforest which grew before European settlement. It would have been traversed by many Awabakal feet over many thousands of years. A short walk to the top of the hill to what is now Crebert Street and they would have seen the river and it's channels where Industrial Highway now runs. The rock you see next to roads and exposed along the Highway contains Chert, a very hard rock which makes durable and sharp stone tools of all sizes. These were highly prized and traded far inland along trade routes - this area was an industrial site long before 1801. 
From Newcastle Regional gallery collection, painted by convict/colonial artist, Joseph Lycett, a hint of the scene you might have seen from what was Platt's Channel and is now Steel City, looking towards  Keepa Keepa (Mt Sugarloaf)      
Lost to contemporary memory as this is a photo of a funeral in 1900 leaving the old St Andrew's church, built in 1861 when Mayfield wasn't even called Mayfield and was way out in the bush, a day's trip by wagon and a few hours on horseback or a hard row up the river.
Barefooted boys in the foreground at this St Andrew's carnival day in 1920 play on the grounds where Church Street Community Garden now grows. The carnival ride they are enjoying would NEVER be allowed today - insurance and Occupational  Health and Safety requirements would prevent that.

The old St Andrew's church, demolished decades ago. The oldest member of  Rotary Club of Newcastle Enterprise remembers teaching Sunday school in this building.

 History, memory, community, simple pleasures, a bit of fun and a laugh or too, sometimes some deeply philosophical discussions, sometimes chat and trivia, a bit of spray-can "art" on occasions, good food, engaging the senses - we have it all and more in this small space.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Carol for Gardeners

City Farm Community Garden, Ash Island Hexham

To the tune of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"

"Come all you weary gardeners
Don't throw your rakes away
The weeds aren't always thick and high 
The way they are today
Our pumpkins make the sweetest pie
The beans reach to the sky
We've got corn, peas and lettuces
Spinach by the ton
Melons, radish, carrots and some capsicum

Cabbage moths and funguses 
Will always pass us by
There's hoverflies and dragonflies
And ladybugs as well
The garlic spray annoys the pests 
And makes them run away
We have creeping crawly worms, bugs, wasps
Beetles and bees
And never ever aches or muddy knees

We know it is impossible
For choko vines to die
Our tanks will always be full up
The soil will never dry
Magic garden gnomes will work
While we sit idly by
We'll have gardening in comfort and joy
Comfort and Joy
We'll have gardening in comfort and Joy!"

Monday, December 13, 2010

Costa wants more weeds

Costa and Kathy Heyman
Costa talking to the "Elders" of March Street Community Garden and as you can see, very comfortable on the purple caterpillar

The pizza oven tended by Alex

The evening was full of colour and fun

Some of the crowd of over a hundred

Costa was inspired to visit Newcastle's community gardens after seeing Jamie's "Placestory" about Villiers Street and the need to move. Jamie Pomfrett and Jenny Cameron have collaborated to bring the story of many of the community gardens into context. A garden is not just a garden. It's a place where friendships build, individuals use and sometimes abuse them in their own way, food is grown and shared. Community gardens of all types are keepers of the knowledge of growing food in a social setting. They are a buffer against the reduction in home-grown produce. Over 50% of Australia's food is now imported. Costa says we should all be like the weeds in a bitumen carpark, getting seeds germinating in tiny cracks, wriggling roots into the soil, forming mycorrhizal connections with soil fungi, breaking down the barriers to water and bringing back productivity and growth, regenerating the land. "Be weeds" he said!  He has an hour-long special on Australia Day - worth recording if you can't watch it on the day.

Urban farm in Detroit USA 

Here's an idea for Newcastle.
As Costa says, even if your garden is one plant in a pot you are a farmer. Putting the areas of all the big, little, guerilla and domestic gardens together there is a considerable mosaic of farm-land.  In Newcastle there is a large piece of degraded land between  Throsby Creek, the railway line and Chatham Road, Hamilton North. It is roughly triangular, about 450 Metres by about 170 Metres so it is approximately 38 Hectares.  Some nice old brick buildings on it and enormous potential for an urban farm. Preserve some of our built heritage and re-use it as a base for a community green space producing food, now there's an idea.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sunflowers, mathematics and Fibonacci

The Fibonacci numbers are the numbers in the following integer sequence
By definition, the first two Fibonacci numbers are 0 and 1, and each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two. Some sources begin the sequence with two 1s. 
The Fibonacci sequence is named after Leonardo of Pisa, known as Fibonacci (a contraction of filius Bonacci, "son of Bonaccio").  Fibonacci sequences are used in finance and also appear in biological settings, such as branching in trees and in the model for the pattern of florets in the head of a sunflower. There is a formula which explains how the seeds pack together with the greatest efficiency, resulting in a spiral pattern.
Two very large sunflower heads with the spiral pattern very clear
 Mathematics - the language of Nature. If you want to know more follow this link to wikipedia and Fibonacci

Monday, December 6, 2010

Costa will visit Newcastle on December 13th

The plan is for everyone to gather around 6pm and share food, and then from 8pm we'll have the outdoor screening of stories from the PlaceStories website. Please bring seats/blankets to sit on. The Croatian Club will be open and serving drinks (and that's where we'll go if it's raining).

Re Food.
The pizza oven will be going from 6pm, and Fig Tree have kindly offered to make pizza bases. But that means we need to bring toppings, especially the basic cheese and tomato paste.  And it would be good to have some finger food that doesn't need to go into the pizza oven (just so people get fed!).

So could everyone coordinate within their community garden group to make sure that people bring along some of the basic cheese and tomato toppings, plus some extra toppings, as well as some finger food that doesn't need to go into the oven. 

The previous posts tell the story of why Costa is coming to Newcastle.

Echium in flower at Aldinga Community Garden in South Australia

Friday, December 3, 2010

Jamie's Placestory and our Placemaking grant from NCC

Copy and paste this link into your browser  or click on the link

Jamie has produced a "Placestory" as a brief introduction to the transition Villiers Street Comunity Garden made to becoming Church Street Community Garden.  We are all waiting to see if a notable TV gardening presenter will be able to launch it very soon.  
But wait! there's more! We are in the process of receiving a "Placemaking" grant from Newcastle City Council, just the paperwork and funds transfer to complete. This grant, combined with the grant we received for Villiers Street as a seed grant, is a huge boost to us. From little things big things grow. 
We are very grateful to NCC for the financial support we have received. Gratitude is one of the least long-lived emotions, so we will use the cash to turn it into long-term social, emotional and environmental gold in our local community. The grant application was for a picnic setting which is safe and suitable for public use, and for an event to promote membership and community participation in the garden.  Now we will have the pleasure and fun of making it all happen.

Church Street Community Garden Inc is an autonomous community group hosted by St Andrew's Mayfield. Rev Andrew emailed the link 
to a Uniting Church newsletter and it shows just how community, humanity and environmental stewardship unites us all. 

The picture is apropos absolutely nothing in particular except, is this what bakers do when they are bored stiff?  Driving from Adelaide to Ardrossan on Yorke Peninsula, stopped at an eatery for lunch and there were these wild cakes.

And another, just because the sky and the sea at Ardrossan were being gorgeous.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Aldinga Community Garden in South Australia and Aldinga Aero Club

On holidays in SA we checked how things are going at "our" house of 8 years ago, how the Aldinga Aero Club is going (I was the founding President nearly 20 years ago) and to see what has happened at new-ish community gardens at Symonds Reserve Aldinga.  The nearly 1400 Eucalyptus cladocalyx (South Australian Sugar Gum) we planted on "our" 4 acres 12 years ago after we bull-dozed the almond trees are MONSTER tall. The aim of growing them was as possible wood fire fuel and garden mulch, or maybe just let them grow and grow. They were planted on 3M by 2M spacings so they go straight up tall and clean of low branches. They can be cut to the ground and will resprout - epicormic growth. The regrowth can be chainsawed back to one main leader and hey presto the tree grows again, and can be cut again - twice more in fact- when the trunk has reached the height needed. This becomes a carbon cycle of taking in carbon while growing, storing it as the growth matures, releasing it again when harvested, then storing it again as the tree grows. Ultimately the tree is best left alone, perhaps after the grove is thinned out to give each tree more light and share of water.  Very mature Euc cladocalyx make good furniture timber, bees love the flowers for honey, and as the adiabatic winds (gully winds) which pour off the Sellicks hills in Summer are pretty fierce at night, they really shelter the house and other garden plants.
"Our" house faced north and looked over what became vines after the almond industry moved to the Riverland. The house is built of cement-stabilised rammed earth, walls 30cms thick, local Willunga slate on the floor. A very simple rectangular house and very comfortable. We used to fly gliders at Gawler and the airstrips there are cement stabilised rammed earth, built early in WW2, Liberator bombers and Kittyhawks operated there. It was the major receiving station for military signals and an early radar station. The entrance to the signals room - an underground concrete bunker - was via an unguarded chook shed. The apparent entrance was a conspicuously guarded building much further away. The airstrips still survive but now have bitumen taxiways to minimise dust and prop damage to powered aircraft.
Anyway, back to present day Aldinga  --
At the airfield it is all we dreamed of all those years ago. The airfield is owned by a group of shareholders, Aldinga Aviation,  the flying school and aero club are separate organisations and both operate there. The flying school is the operator of the training aircraft and the aero club is a social flying group who hire/fly from the school. Great arrangement, great flying school, lovely shaded verandahs to sit on and watch air ops and talk flying and drink real coffee and eat great cake.

Modest but comfortable clubhouse for Aldinga Aero Club

The Sellicks hills behind the Aldinga Airfield are low, rounded and look like a line of sleeping elephants  The PC-12 turboprop

The Aldinga Community Garden is built on old tennis courts so it has the advantage of being close to other social groups and an old but substantial chain wire fence which is pretty tall.  Nobody there as they work on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  
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Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Choko

Jonathon came back from his trip South. He visited the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, and the botanic gardens in Canberra and Melbourne. Being from sunny Scotland he was entranced by the gardens and especially the native plants. The beans went into the pumpkin patch and peas into the spare bit where the  Paw-Paws expired. 
Annie has been defending her choko's honour nobly - don't know why, death to all chokoes I say. Googled Choko. The Age website described it as an "unusual climbing plant, Sechium edule, which belongs to the pumpkin family and is a single species native to tropical America." Did Mother Nature conduct an experiment that wasn't worth going on with? Should we buy all chokoes a ticket back home???  Stephanie Alexander has devoted a whole chapter of one of her books to the choko, goodness knows why.
It is known as Chayotl,  christophine, vegetable pear,mirliton, mango squash, Buddha's hand gourd and Alligator pear - still a choko though. 
So in case we have the expected glut, here is one way of pretending what you have is not a choko 

Choko Pickles


1.5 kg chokos
1 kg onions
½ cup salt
1 l brown vinegar.
1 cup plain flour
2 cups sugar
1 dessertspoon each of turmeric, mustard powder, curry powder
½ teaspoon ground ginger


Peel and slice the chokos and onions and sprinkle with salt. Leave them to stand overnight, then strain and rinse the next morning. Place in a saucepan with the brown vinegar and simmer until tender.

Mix the dry ingredients to a paste with a small amount of vinegar, then add to the choko mixture, bringing it back to the boil for about five minutes. Cool a little, then bottle into clean glass jars.

Now that the warm weather is here we have murmured about meeting on Wednesday in the late afternoon/evening for a social session - Mocktails and Nibbles as the sun goes down maybe? Also a yearning for bird baths. A large shallow terracotta dish is just right and won't breed mossies. And - when we are sitting on the benches near the old hall we would just love to look at something green and growing up against the cream brick of the new hall - Passion Fruit vines? Might inhibit the outdoor artists with their spray cans too.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Spring is when lots of birds get into trouble!!

As a wildlife rescuer/carer I get a lot of calls in Spring. Noisy Mynahs particularly get into trouble - more of them so more calls to rescue them. The best rescue is, make the baby call out and feathered rockets will appear from nowhere, put the baby back up as high as possible in a tree (away from roads if possible) and let them get on with it. The babies flutter around quite early in life, not very expert pilots but they get by pretty well and don't need humans to "rescue" them unnecessarily. If a bird has been traumatised - hit by a car, bashed up by butcher birds/Indian Mynahs/ Kookaburras or whatever  - the only treatment initially is a dark covered box with a heat source at blood heat and left alone to get over the initial shock. They won't starve or die of dehydration, over-kindness WILL kill them. If they survive and perk up to what looks like normal, let them make the decision when to leave, but let them go pretty well exactly where you found them. A lot of birds are territorial and release into "foreign" territory WILL get them killed. Any vet will treat a native animal or bird for nothing but some vets are better at it than others - ask them, don't assume  and be prepared to take them to a properly skilled vet with a genuine wish to look after native animals. Puppies and kitties are more profitable than cold charity. We have an obligation to our native animals because we've done so much to wreck their home.
The Australian Maned ducks in the video had very caring parents who chose to nest in palm trees next to two lovely blue suburban swimming pools - the humans weren't happy to share with them for six weeks or thereabouts until the babies were fully feathered and could fly. I would have just banned humans from the pool for that time and then had it cleaned! So, they became a rescue and will be released at the Wetland Centre, Shortland, NSW when they are fully fledged and flying as they came from close by.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Potatoes and Spring

Ros, Judy and Julia did a lot of weeding, watering and planting. The silver beet is starting to go to seed so some was replaced with mixed lettuces. Some of the potatoes looked scummy and some had lost their leaves but underneath was a nice little harvest of potatoes to share.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fair day at St Andrews October 16th

The medieval dancers and Annie's circle dancers combined later and swapped steps and music.

The belly dancers performing "The Volcano"

Carol was quietly and efficiently busy all day flitting around like a beautiful purple butterfly

The wind blew cold and fast all day

Andrew as Court Jester from Mongolia????
It was a very cold and windy day and most people stayed warm in the hall. The SCA medievalists bravely stuck it out until just after midday.Despite all of the weather problems, and maybe the takings for the church was down on what they hoped, it was a lovely friendly atmosphere and people who came enjoyed themselves. A group of young teenagers dressed in full Punk gear with trio spiked hair and plenty of metal bought soft toys, Pius, Doris and Mabelle overspent their budget a bit and were treated by the gardeners and others to Chocolate Fountain marshmallows - and more. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Spring planting

Like the two circles, this looks very boring but just wait a few months!
Strawberries on the vines. Wonder if they'll be nicked like the agave's and some of the daisy bushes along the fence? Oh well.....
Sadly the swallows - previous post - died. Tried very hard to do the right thing by them with temperature and feeding, clearly not enough. "Survivor Guilt" clicks in. Currently have a Little Wattlebird chick, a Noisy Mynah chick, two Australian Maned Duck ducklings, a White Faced Heron and a Ringtail possum in care - it's Spring!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Spring babies

Not R-e-ally community garden, but how can you not go gooey at the sight of these. Port Waratah rang as they were having to move machinery which had swallow nests attached, with eggs. When they actually came to removing them and transporting them to me, one lot was in the process of hatching, there was a group which were clearly much more advanced, and eggs which are now in the jury -rigged incubator.
This is the second "Noisy Myna" chick for rescue but NPWS are wrong, it's a Little Wattle bird.The first one, Buddha Bird,  is about to join an older one in another carer's aviary and keep learning how to be a NM before being buddied with others to form a new troupe for release
Just hatched swallow chicks, eating with the help of a toothpick loaded with an insectivore mix.
The "Dream Pot" slow cooker has been a lifesaver
Older swallow chicks are eating very well.and often, feed one end and you won't believe the size of what comes out the other, birds are messy critters

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Biodiversity is the key

"Biodiversity is key: Organic agriculture best means of tackling pest control and producing larger plants

A study released by Washington State University in the Journal ‘Nature’ has found organic agriculture gives better pest control and produces larger plants than conventional farming due to a higher level of biodiversity.

The researchers found that more balanced animal and plant communities typical of organic farms work better at fighting pests and growing a better plant and highlights the importance of biodiversity.

The researchers looked at insect pests and their natural enemies in potatoes and found organic crops had more balanced insect populations in which no one species of insect has a chance to dominate. And in test plots, the crops with the more balanced insect populations grew better.

"Organic agriculture promotes more balanced communities of predators," says David Crowder, a post-doctorate research associate in entomology at Washington State University.

"What our study suggests is that organic agriculture is promoting these more balanced natural enemy communities and they may have better, organic pest control."

"I think 'balance' is a good term," says David Crowder. "When the species are balanced, at least in our experiments, they're able to fulfill their roles in a more harmonious fashion."

Crowder and colleagues use the term "evenness" to describe the relatively equal abundance of different species in an ecosystem.

Conservation efforts more typically concentrate on species richness - the number of individual species - or the loss of individual species. Crowder's paper is one of only a few to address the issue and the first to look at animal and fungal communities at multiple points in the food chain.

The researchers say their results strengthen the argument that both richness and evenness need to be considered in restoring an ecosystem.

The paper also highlights insect predator and prey relationships at a time when the potato industry, including large French fry retailers like McDonald's and Wendy's, is being pushed to consider the ecological sustainability of different pest-control practices.

Conventional pest -management on farms often leads to biological communities being dominated by a few species.  Looking at conventional and organic potato farms in central Washington State's Columbia Basin, Crowder found that the evenness of natural pests differed drastically between the two types of farms."

This was sent to me in an email from a fellow member of the
Australian Plants Society Newcastle Group who also happens to be a passionate organic gardener.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Letting in the light in the Memorial Garden

Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone, known as St Francis,  has something new to look at - Kangaroo Paw "Red Devil"


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Organochloride poisons

As an animal rescuer/carer with the Native Animal Trust I have seen the effects of poisons like Dieldrin, Lindane and other organochloride poisons on birds. Tawny Frogmouths eat things like cockroaches and spiders from our gardens.Squeamish about these creatures? Sprayed around the house? Had the pest exterminator man in? The runoff and spread through the environment means that these lovely birds are poisoned. They suffer a slow death with dreadful epileptic-like seizures, are unable to fly or walk and are killed by cats and dogs if they end up on the ground.  The next time somebody screams and says that cockroaches are ikky, ignore it and don't reach for the spray can. Think - if these poisons are killing the birds, what is happening to human health?  People like me don't want to get called out time after time to a "rescue" which ends as another bird euthanased to prevent further suffering.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

September 4th Drippy Spring and Judy's new boots

Borage flowers and bee

Judy wanted to have a picture of her new boots on the blog - happy to oblige.

We planted Sweet Basil, Red Mustard and Borage and said goodbye to the three PawPaws by the tanks. Looks like the very wet weather has rotted their roots off Annie will bring up some more banana suckers and this time we will mound them.
Not a lot to talk about at the meeting. We will plant two more big beds, oval shaped this time, to take the flower seedlings and a pumpkin patch. Judy has some genuine Gramma seeds and so do I. Can't plant 0ther cucurbits at the same time as they cross when the bees do their pollination and the fruit could be any old thing. Had the unfortunate experience once of growing what looked like a beautiful watermelon which turned out to be a waterkin/pumpmelon when cut open!!  The loofahs we grew at Villiers Street crossed with a cucumber or a zucchini and turned into loofumbers/ zoofahs - inedible and no use for a back scrubber.  Bees will fly 5 Km to collect pollen ( makes the claims that GMO crops are safe with a buffer zone of 1 Km) so we still will have no guarantees unless we do the pollination ourselves.

That  Parterre again - is doing fine.

Judy will tell the congregation they can start picking some of the leaves from the outside of the coloured spinach.
Red Mustard grows quite large. In Summer it will go to seed pretty quickly but will make a very colourful splash in the meantime. Very hot, so it sparks up salad with just a single leaf

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The "Living Gazebo" framework

Chris and Julia put up some of the gazebo. Only three frames as two having gone "missing" from the shedDisappointing.

Meanwhile the growth in the parterre is leaping skywards

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pawpaws replanted on a mound

Chikka raced over and "helped" Chris and Lauchie to dig up and replant the pawpaws.

Now they won't drown and rot